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We’re celebrating independence and collaboration with the release of Wool People 11 today! We always enjoy the chance our Wool People project offers to work alongside independent designers, both new and established — there’s a sense of fresh energy and perspective in combing through the hundreds of submissions we receive for these collections and in bringing the selected designs to life.

This issue feels extra special because it incorporates our two newest yarns, Arbor and Vale. Next week we’ll do a feature on the Vale accessories and share the designers’ thoughts about working with our new laceweight. But before we delve into the wonderful world of lace and kick off our Summer of Lace KAL, we want to talk about the Wool People 11 garments. There are eight gorgeous sweaters in three different yarns, and what really stands out to us is the diversity of fabrics the designers have achieved in these wearable, flattering pieces.

For cozy bundling in the light but warm stockinette that Shelter creates, Ann Klimpert and Andrea Mowry present Rivet and Ronan. Both of these long-length cardigans rely on Shelter’s airy, woolen-spun nature to stay versatile and hold their shape despite their large swathes of fabric. Rivet has a vintage feel, while Ronan’s is a totally modern silhouette with a collar in fluffy brioche.

For those who like a trim and classic pullover, Mossbank and Bell give a twist to timeless layering pieces by using mostly reverse stockinette fabric. The pebbly texture of the purl side is a great way to set off softly rounded cables in a woolen-spun yarn, as Ann McCauley chose to do with Bell. Kerry Robb was inspired by the back side of her swatch in our Newsprint marl, realizing that the bumps blend the contrasting colors into an inviting heathery haze.

Loft in garter stitch is total comfort fabric, and triangular shawls like Nancy Whitman’s Level are comfort wear. For cool summer evenings when you want to linger outdoors, this graphic layer is the remedy. Level’s inventive construction and a dab of intarsia make the knitting sprightlier than usual for a garter triangle. If you’ve got a summer road trip planned, we think light and packable Loft shawls make good travel companions as knitting projects and as finished pieces.

One reason we’ve been so excited to add Arbor to our core yarn line is that it’s entirely different from our woolen-spun yarns. Besides being stronger, denser, and smoother, Arbor is rounder. Its third ply makes the yarn cylindrical rather than helical, and its tighter twist keeps those three plies completely engaged in a happy ménage. Arbor’s stitches don’t blend in amongst their neighbors; they stand proud and individual. And that means we can knit fabrics with more dimension and more vivid texture.

Four of our Wool People designers put Arbor through its paces with very different approaches. Melissa Wehrle uses a simple all-over texture of knits and purls to create a waffly fabric for Harlowe, and a relaxed gauge allows the sweater to drape beautifully. Yoko Hatta’s sculptural Akiko cardigan shows the yarn’s affinity for cables and contrasts moss stitch fronts with a clean plane of fluid stockinette on the back. Olga Buraya-Kefelian opts for a modern, high-impact ribbing treatment to elevate her Boundary mock turtleneck. And Emily Greene pulls out all the stops with panels of directional half-twisted rib in her Divide pullover.

Are you ready to swatch some new fabrics to add to your closet? We hope you find inspiration in the talent and vision of the Wool People designers. Take some time with the new lookbook and let us know what’s calling your name!

 

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Recently released, Vale is the first laceweight offering in our line of core yarns. Since we also currently have our small-batch laceweight Plains in stock, we thought we’d tell you a little more about their similarities as well as their unique qualities. 

Vale and Plains share many similar characteristics: they are both two-ply, worsted spun, breed-specific laceweight yarns made from Rambouillet fleece grown on the plains of Wyoming. Soft and crimpy, Rambouillet is prized for its loft and bounce and creates accessories and garments that are both durable and springy. Patterns made from either Vale or Plains will be warm, light and airy.

Despite these similarities, Vale and Plains also have nuanced differences that make for unique knitting hand and finished fabric characteristics. While both yarns are spun worsted for strength, Plains is a slightly rustic yarn, intentionally spun a bit thick-and-thin which lends a lot of spring to its step. Scoured and combed into buttery smooth top before spinning, the more polished Vale is spun with an even twist and weight, lending a balance and evenness to it while still maintaining some of the bounce of Plains.

When it comes to the micron count of wool, the smaller the number, the softer the fiber. The fleece used for Plains has a micron count of 22. Vale’s micron count is 21.5, making it the softest fiber we’ve sourced to date. Even this small decrease in micron count makes a noticeable difference in terms of the softness of hand of the finished fiber.

The color palettes for both yarns were designed in-house by Jared Flood. The Plains palette offers an assortment of colors, many of which have a counterpart in our worsted-spun, DK-weight Arbor palette. While Vale’s palette incorporates a few favorites from the Arbor yarn line as well, it was uniquely curated to showcase the softer and more sophisticated tones within the color wheel, and in particular was inspired by Jared’s nature photographs taken during his travels (see more of those in our new lookbook).

Working with Mountain Meadow Mill in Wyoming, the same location as the source of the fleece, Plains was Brooklyn Tweed’s first foray into limited-edition yarns. Since Plains is a small-batch, special release, when it’s gone, it’s gone. Conversely, Vale marks an expansion of our permanent offerings of worsted-spun yarns. As an addition to our core yarn line, you can count on Vale being around for years to come (although we do hope that you give it a try sooner than later!).

We are eager to hear about your experience knitting with our newest core yarn Vale, and encourage you to knit with Plains while you still can!

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Today we’re excited to announce a new addition to Brooklyn Tweed’s permanent stable of yarns: an airy Rambouillet laceweight from the softest fleece we’ve ever offered. Vale has been in development since last year and it’s been hard to keep it under our hats! Like all its BT cousins, this breed-specific yarn is 100% American made, from sheep to dyepot. Vale will be available for purchase on May 17. Ready for a sneak peek?

The Fiber

Rambouillet sheep are also known as French Merinos; two hundred years of careful breeding developed a fleece with even more crimp and bounce than the merino that’s widely available today. In the United States, Rambouillets are a favorite finewool breed on the western plains. The growers we work with in Wyoming achieve wool with a micron count of 21.5, the softest fiber we’ve used to date.

The Process

The same partners who help us produce Arbor bring our Rambouillet bales from raw fleece to finished skein. Chargeurs, based in South Carolina, scours it clean and combs it into the smooth and consistent top that’s required for worsted spinning. The fiber is shipped on to Maine for worsted spinning at the Jagger Brothers mill, and then travels a short distance to the Saco River Dyehouse for eco-friendly skein dyeing.

The Colors

Vale’s 14 custom shades augment some touchstone colors from the Arbor line with sophisticated softer tones. Dusty rose shades, glacial blues, and lichen yellows form a focused palette that offers both neutrals and brights.

The Knitting

We’ve handpicked a selection of favorite lace pieces designed by Jared Flood from the BT archives to re-knit in Vale. (Any guesses which they are?) We love the polished, even spin of this yarn, which shows off stitch motifs to maximum effect.

Mull over the palette and the pattern options and get ready to join us for a summer of lace! We’ll be hosting our first-ever knitalong starting in early July and posting our favorite tips and tricks for lace success. If you’re lace-curious but haven’t tried this beautiful form of knitting yet, it will be the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet.

Join us this week while we discuss Vale and all of its project possibilities on the BT Ravelry forum.

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Our latest collection, BT Yokes, offers even the most seasoned colorwork knitter lots of opportunity for experimentation. We had fun playing with color options for Schulz, a unisex pullover designed by Michele Wang. Try Cinnabar or Thistle for a bright pop of vintage nostalgia, or a neutral like Cast Iron or Pumpernickel for a slightly more subdued effect. These are just a few ideas — we can’t wait to see what you come up with!

The colorways as shown in the photo above:

1 — Almanac (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

2 — Tent (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

3 — Thistle (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

4 — Cast Iron (C1 & C3), Fossil (C2)

5 — Pumpernickel (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

6 — Embers (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

7 — Hayloft (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

8 — Cinnabar (C1), Fossil (C2) & Cast Iron (C3)

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Sunbursts, trees and stars, reindeer and snowflakes, mutable landscapes of blended color. In vivid hues or in natural sheep shades, figural or geometric in design, the yoke sweaters of the North Atlantic are distinctive and enduring. The story of their creation in the 20th century is one of enterprise and canny marketing as knitters leveraged traditional skills to make ends meet in a rapidly changing and newly global economy.

The Icelandic lopapeysa, the Scandinavian and Shetland yokes, and the sweaters of the Bohus Stickning cooperative in Sweden may all have their roots in a Greenlandic ornamental accessory called the nuilarmiut that has nothing to do with knitting — it’s an element of traditional formalwear made of glass beads that cover the shoulders and bust in a large collar of brightly patterned geometric designs. The nuilarmiut’s appearance in a 1930 Danish film and, later, on members of the Danish royal family seems to have inspired several Scandinavian knitwear designers to imitate the effect in wool. Three of the earliest known circular yoke patterns bore the name “Eskimo,” suggesting their common inspiration. In the 1940s, the Bohus Stickning company in Sweden made the yoke sweater a mid-century status symbol. The designers’ innovative and masterful color play broke entirely with traditional motifs and methods to create subtly shifting forms and juxtaposed hues, all rendered at extremely fine gauge in luxurious angora-blend yarns. Bohus sweaters were worn by royalty and cultural icons — and commanded prices to match. The knitters’ earnings supported many families during an economically difficult time. Cottage industries in Shetland and Iceland were also quick to capitalize on the international taste for yokes, channeling their potent knitting histories to create garments that became lucrative exports more accessible to the average pocket book.

The strategic position of the patterning on a circular yoke serves two purposes. The designs ring the throat and shoulders like jewelry, drawing attention to the face. The plain body and sleeves heighten this effect while slyly achieving a second end: all that unadorned fabric is easy and relatively speedy knitting. In the case of the famous Shetland yokes, many of which featured tree and star designs borrowed from neighboring Norway, the jumper bodies and sleeves were knit by machine and then passed to the handknitters for the colorwork portion. The sweaters could then be completed at a cracking pace to achieve a successful commercial scale, and the knitters could develop one beautiful variation after another by skillfully shading both the background and foreground colors. The Bohus sweaters were always knit entirely by hand, but even at 8 or 9 stitches to the inch, the plain bodies allowed the most accomplished knitters to complete a couture garment in just a few weeks. Icelandic production knitters still work by hand, but take advantage of their native sheep’s long-stapled fleeces to work at a loose large gauge that supports strong geometric motifs and rapid sweater completion.

Yokes have climbed to the height of fashion, plunged into outmoded fustiness, and ascended once again in recent decades. Across the North Atlantic, a resurgence of admiration for these powerful symbols of national identity has led younger generations to embrace them. Knitters around the world have been quick to appreciate the joy of crafting yokes; a basic circular yoke is one of the most foolproof sweaters to knit, and the possibilities for elaboration are endless.

Brooklyn Tweed pays homage to the bold beauty and variety of yoke designs in five sweaters and two accessories that tip the cap to history, but hew to modern fit principles and allow each designer to explore original ideas. In these pages you’ll find seamless construction (both bottom up and top down), stranded colorwork, cabled texture, and even a wink at classic cartoons. Welcome to BT Yokes.

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Winter is lingering long in Portland this year, but we’re choosing to see these days of near-freezing drizzle as a prompt to make the most of our knitwear. Warm weather still feels so far away that we’re more than happy to contemplate casting on another sweater, especially with the lure of a just-right portion of decorative stitchwork. That’s what we love about yoke designs: their perfect balance of carefree stockinette seasoned with a dash of colorwork or textural patterning. They’re fun to knit, easy to integrate into any wardrobe, and endlessly inviting when we want to experiment with color or cables. To share our enthusiasm, we’re releasing our themed collection for 2017 today: BT Yokes.

We drew inspiration from the sweaters of Iceland, Shetland, and Scandinavia — a history we enjoyed researching for a feature in our lookbook. Jared Flood’s Atlas (now sized for the whole family) nods to the lopapeysa; Véronik Avery elevates her Frostpeak colorwork with cunningly placed purl stitches, an idea pioneered by the Bohus Stickning designers of Sweden; Michele Wang’s Morse cowl stacks bands of small geometric motifs common to Shetland and Norway.

The beauty of yokes has always been their versatility as a canvas for anything a designer can dream up, so we haven’t been too faithful in our interpretations of the form. Some garments apply inventive shaping principles (wait till you see Julie Hoover’s newest take on raglan decreases) and motifs that owe more to Charlie Brown than to anything ever knit in the North Atlantic regions. Norah Gaughan’s flights of cabled fancy are iconic in and of themselves, and her full powers are on display in Tundra and Pyry.

A surprise storm system meant we had to be creative about staging our photoshoot for BT Yokes, but is there a more perfect backdrop for a collection of cozy woolens than a fresh blanket of snow? We hope you’ll enjoy browsing the new lookbook and making the most of the knitting weather.

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We were delighted to release Michele Wang’s Capsule last week. This book represents a tremendous amount of labor and love, and we think Michele’s beautiful aesthetic truly shines in this focused collection. We chatted with her about this project for today’s blog post.

 

 

You’ve been designing for Brooklyn Tweed for six years, preparing an amazing 59 pieces for the seasonal collections. Did planning your Capsule book feel different from your usual design process?

It definitely felt different because there was the pressure of being the only designer. For the seasonal collections, the planning is collaborative and what we end up designing depends greatly on what the other designers are contributing. For the Capsule, it was nice to be able to design all the pieces I wanted to for the collection, but it’s also a lot of pressure — more pressure than I like or am used to! After this solo effort, I appreciated working with a team so much more.

You’ve created a lot of iconic garments that have helped to define the house style at BT; you’re especially known for your cables, and they figure prominently in this collection. What do you love about cabled texture and where do you find ideas for new motifs?

There are so many things I love about cables! I think I always come back to cables because they transcend time and trend. The same cable used in one way feels traditional, but in another setting can yield an updated, trendy look. I also love cables because they’re so much easier to knit than they look! They’re visually impressive, yet all you’re doing is working stitches out of order. To design new motifs, I depend greatly on stitch dictionaries. They’re an endless source of inspiration for me. I love flipping through them as you’d peruse a catalog, imagining where I would use a certain cable or what it would look like in a particular yarn. From there, I’ll usually play off of one motif and grow some supporting cables, changing the scale or introducing a mirroring effect.

The theme of your Capsule is loungewear. Did you know that would be the focus from the outset, and can you tell us what inspired that choice?

I did know that would be the focus and theme. I presented a mood board to Jared way in the beginning and he liked it, so we went from there. For me, hand knits are all about loungewear. Like Mr. Rogers, I love coming home and throwing on a big cardigan. There’s something about it that feels like a hug, and it grounds me. There’s nothing better than putting on a handknit (or many), some fuzzy slippers, making yourself a hot beverage and settling in for the evening. Handknits are a necessity for lounging!

Do you have a favorite piece from this collection? How do you imagine wearing it?

Wow, that’s a tough question. I guess the obvious answer would be Aspen. It’s everything a piece of loungewear should be: cabled, robe-like, with a shawl collar and waist tie. I envisioned a knitter reaching for this cardigan when she plans on staying in her jammies all day!

We confess we may have done a bit of working from home in jammies during Portland’s successive snowstorms of late, and Aspen (or Radmere, her masculine counterpart) would have made the experience so much more glamorous!

How about you, knitters? Do you have an early favorite from Michele’s new collection? How would you wear it?

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Michele Wang has gained a passionate following amongst knitters who love her comfortably stylish garments, opulent cables, and modern shapes. We are so proud to present a new single-designer collection from Michele as the second volume of our Capsule series. The eight patterns in this handsome printed book express her love of loungewear and bring true elegance to cozy living.

Michele’s signature cables leaven chunky knits like Hague and Bingham, create motion and energy in Celyn and Cleridae, build up bold structure in Ilia, and stop traffic with Aspen and Radmere. And when you need palette-cleansing minimalism, Palmer makes a soothing stockinette-based knit that’s bound to become a staple in your closet.

Shot on location in a beautifully renovated Portland apartment and on the streets of the Nob Hill neighborhood, the book is an invitation to relax and dream as you plan your next knitting journey. Photographer Jared Flood’s sensitive eye captures every detail of the garments and reveals the thoughtful design that makes them such a pleasure to knit and wear.

All patterns are worked in our woolen-spun Targhee-Columbia yarns —Shelter, Loft, and Quarry — and are presented in Brooklyn Tweed’s educational format with accurate schematics and thorough descriptions of special techniques. The 138-page softcover book is available at BT stockists around the world; it can also be bundled with an optional e-book if purchased through our web store. We’ve made this book as eco-friendly as possible, printing on Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper at a US facility powered by 100% renewable energy.

Michele hopes you’ll find garments in these pages that will become old and treasured friends. We hope you’ll agree with us that her new collection is hygge gold and give yourself permission to lounge in serious style! Pull on your shearling slippers and pour a mug of steaming cocoa to browse the book preview on our website today.

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Greetings from wintry Portland! As we get ready to leaf over to 2017, we’ve enjoyed looking back on our work from the past year and remembering our favorite BT knitwear. All of our office staff have weighed in with their picks of 2016, and a Top Ten have emerged.

 

The striking poncho shape of the women’s version captured our hearts in particular — not to mention those luscious cables.

Originally knit in Quarry as part of our Ganseys collection, this hat got a whole new look when we released our worsted-spun DK Arbor last fall. Those cables really pop in a yarn built for stitch definition.

Melissa Wehrle knocked it out of the park with her modern interpretation of the Aran pullover in Wool People 10. We love the traditional cables updated with the vented hem and slim sleeves.

We all agree: classic cabled shawl-collar cardigans forever. Especially when they’re warm but light in quick-knitting Quarry.

Oh, those elegant lines! This beautiful cardigan is flattering on everyone.

This quick and satisfying knit uses Arbor to render the Tree of Life — one of our favorite traditional motifs — in stunning high definition. If you can part with it, this cowl makes a great gift.

We love the tailored fit and the bold, simple patterning against a background of reverse stockinette.

This layering piece is perfect for three-season wear, and the shawl collar really sets it apart.

The intriguing fabric of this scarf is such a delightful opportunity to play with color and yarn weight combinations.

 

Maximum coziness, beautiful cables. We love the oversized fit cleverly adapted to eliminate bulk under the arms.

What were your favorite Brooklyn Tweed patterns this year? Let us know in the comments!

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